Back in December we commented on what were, at the time, forthcoming changes within the area of employment law (http://www.frontrowlegal.com/blogs/blog/forthcoming-employment-law-changes/)
With several of these amendments coming into force on 6 April 2014 we thought it a good time to pick out two areas which are likely to be of interest to those seeking to make a claim against their employers.
ACAS Early Conciliation
It has now been confirmed that any potential claimants must first refer their claim to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), before they are able to submit an ET1 claim form to the employment tribunals. This service will be brought in from 6 April 2014 and will become mandatory from 5 May 2014.
Once ACAS have been notified of a claim they will contact the potential claimant to obtain further details from them about the matter. Importantly, the potential claimant is not required to proceed with the ACAS service and can simply confirm that they do not require their assistance. If this is confirmed it will not prohibit them from subsequently proceeding with the case through the employment tribunals.
Where a potential claimant indicates that they do wish to utilise the ACAS service, a Conciliator will contact the employer and attempt to reach a solution between both parties. One of the main reasons why the current Pre-Claim Conciliation Service has not proved successful is due to the fact that the limitation period, this being the time within which a claim must be issued, is only 3 months from the date of dismissal in employment cases. Under the new scheme, ACAS will contact potential claimants within 2 days of initially being notified of a claim. They will then have 1 calendar month from receipt to promote a settlement which can be extended by up to 14 days where there is a reasonable prospect of settlement and both parties agree. The time limit to submit a claim to the employment tribunals is paused from the time that ACAS are first contacted and will re-commence once ACAS have confirmed that the early conciliation procedure has been concluded, either through settlement or the fact that the proposed claimant/employer does not wish to continue with the service.
One interesting aspect however is the fact that the Conciliators are not able to make judgments about whether tribunal claims have any merit. There will therefore be situations where ACAS are obliged to continue with the conciliation process, even if they do not consider the claim to be valid. Additionally, Conciliators can only convey to an employer what the potential claimant has told them. It will therefore be difficult to establish if any potential claims exist where this information is unclear or incomplete.
It will be interesting to see how these changes affect the numbers of potential claims which are settled without the need to involve the employment tribunals. There is no doubt that there will be an increase, however it remains to be seen whether people simply refer their potential claims to ACAS with no intention of actually using the service, in order to be able to continue through the standard process.
One other change which will be of interest is that the maximum amount for a week’s gross pay is being increased from £450 to £464, when calculating amounts that can be claimed by an employee. This uplift is likely to apply to a large number of claimants, in that this calculation is used to calculate the basic award and will therefore provide a larger pay-out for those who are on annual salaries over £23,400, whereas previously their claim would have been restricted. Additionally, the maximum compensatory award is being increased from £74,200 to £76,574, this award being compensation for actual loss of income. It could however be said that this is likely to only affect those on large salaries, or those who are likely to be unable to find work for a significant period of time.